Friday, April 15, 2022
Notable federal marijuana reform news with an interesting new bill while we further wait for an old one
The long-anticipated Senate bill to federally legalize marijuana will not be introduced this month, with Democratic leadership saying on Thursday that the timeline is being extended as they continue to work out various provisions “with the assistance of nearly a dozen Senate committees and input from numerous federal agencies.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said on several occasions that the bill he’s been working on with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) for many months would be formally filed by the end of April. That’s no longer the case, with the leader now saying the “official introduction” will take place sometime “before the August recess.”
A discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA) was first unveiled last year, and advocates and stakeholders have been hanging on the leader’s words as they continue to push for an end to federal prohibition. Most recently, Schumer said last week that he and colleagues were in the process of reaching out to Republican senators to “see what they want” included in the legislation.
The timeline that Schumer previewed has apparently proved too ambitious — but the hope is that by taking extra time to finalize the measure, it will help the senators overcome what are currently significant odds stacked against them to reach a high vote threshold in the chamber, where Democrats hold just a slim majority and several members of the party have indicated that they’re not supportive of legalization.
A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers filed a bill on Thursday that would direct the attorney general to create a commission charged with making recommendations on a regulatory system for marijuana that models what’s currently in place for alcohol.
Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Brian Mast (R-FL) are teaming up on what’s titled the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment Act (PREPARE) Act — an incremental reform meant to inform comprehensive cannabis policy changes in the future.
The measure will “provide lawmakers across the ideological spectrum the opportunity to engage on cannabis reform by creating a fair, honest and publicly transparent process for the federal government to establish effective regulation to be enacted upon the termination of its 85-year prohibition of cannabis,” according to a summary from the sponsors....
Here’s what the new bill would accomplish:
Require the attorney general to establish a “Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis” within 30 days of the bill’s enactment. The commission would be responsible for studying federal and state regulatory models for alcohol and make recommendations about how they could inform marijuana regulations. Among other things, the commission’s report must look at the impact of marijuana criminalization, particularly as it concerns minority, low-income and veteran communities.
The panel would also examine the “lack of consistent regulations for cannabis product safety, use and labeling requirements” as well as the “lack of guidance for cannabis crop production, sale, intrastate, interstate, and international trade.“ It would also need to make recommendations on how to remedy cannabis-related banking and research barriers as well as address measures to ensure the “successful coexistence of individual hemp and cannabis industries, including prevention of cross pollination of cannabis and hemp products.”
Members would further be mandated to study and make recommendations on “efficient cannabis revenue reporting and collecting, including efficient and tenable federal revenue frameworks.” The panel would be required to issue a report to Congress within 12 months.
I have come to believe that Senator Shumer's CAOA is essentially DOA in a Senate that may not now have even 50 votes in support of full marijuana legalization, let alone the 60 needed to get past a filibuster. But the new PREPARE Act already has bipartisan support, and it seems to only call upon the federal government to take a serious and sustained look at what kind of federal regulatory rules and structures would be preferable as marijuana reform in the states continues apace. In a well-functioning Congress, I think some version of the PREPARE Act could and should be a no-brainer and likely should have been enacted a number of years ago. In the current dysfunctional Congress, I fear that we need not seriously prepare for the passage of the PREPARE Act. But one can still dream.